Somali Radio Stations Halt Music

MOGADISHU, Somalia — At least 14 radio stations here in the capital stopped broadcasting music on Tuesday, heeding an ultimatum by an Islamist insurgent group to stop playing songs or face “serious consequences.”

Badri Media, via European Pressphoto Agency

Presenters at Radio Shabelle, which stopped playing music on Tuesday under threat from Islamist insurgents.

The threat left radio stations scrambling to scrub even the briefest suggestion of music from their daily programming. “Bam! Bam! Bam!” — the sound of gunshots that Somalis in Mogadishu have grown accustomed to hearing — was played by Radio Shabelle on its news broadcast to replace the music it usually uses to introduce the segment.

Similarly odd sounds — like the roar of an engine, a car horn, animal noises and the sound of water flowing — were used to introduce programs on some of the other radio stations that stopped playing music.

“We have replaced the music of the early morning program with the sound of the rooster, replaced the news music with the sound of the firing bullet and the music of the night program with the sound of running horses,” said Osman Abdullahi Gure, the director of Radio Shabelle radio and television, one of the most influential stations in Mogadishu.

“It was really a crush,” he said. “We haven’t had time to replace all the programs at one time; instead, we have chosen these sounds.”

The insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, issued its ultimatum 10 days ago and set Tuesday as the deadline to comply, saying that music was “un-Islamic.” In other parts of the country, insurgents have taken over or shut down some radio stations. Last week, the Shabab, the country’s most powerful insurgent group, said it was banning foreign programs like those broadcast by the BBC and Voice of America, calling them Western propaganda that violated Islam.

The radio stations that stopped playing music on Tuesday are based in both insurgent and government-controlled areas of the ruined capital. Those located in insurgent-held territory seemed to have little alternative, but some of the managers at stations in government-controlled territory argued that the lack of security and the loss of advertising income led them to comply as well.

Somalia, crippled by years of unrest and the lack of a powerful central government, is one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist.

“Mogadishu media has become a defenseless victim that is exposed to all sorts of oppression, abuse and brutality,” said Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary general of the National Union of Somali Journalists, in a statement published on the group’s Web site. Nine journalists were killed in 2009 in Somalia, according to a report published on the site.

The transitional government, which has been weakened by constant attacks, roadside bombs and suicide bombers, controls only a few enclaves of Mogadishu with the support of the African Union peacekeepers.

“The government cannot guarantee our security, and we have to make our first priority the safety and security of our employees,” said Abdirashid Abdulle, director of the newly established radio station Tusmo, which is based in Hamarjajab, a government-controlled area.

Many residents expressed dismay at the new restrictions. “We are really losing all hope of life,” said Hashi Abdullahi, who said he liked to listen to music. The insurgents have “punished our life with bullets, and today they are punishing us with a ban on all types of music,” he said.

Many also worried about getting accurate and balanced news after learning that the radio stations followed the orders of the insurgent groups.

“I think that this was a test to terrorize the media in Mogadishu, and it’s seems like a justification to confiscate the radio stations that fail to comply with the order in the areas under their control,” said Ugaas Mohamed Bashir, vice chairman of the Somali Traditional Elders Council.

At least two radio stations did not heed the ban. The government-owned Radio Mogadishu and another station, Radio Bar-Kulan, which is mostly produced in Kenya, continued playing music.


spotted by RS

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